Anton Kern Gallery is pleased to present 10, a group show on the gallery’s third floor featuring ten painters whose work we rate at 11.

Spanning multiple generations, each artist selected creates intimate works that are immersed in a variety of modes of painting. Historic work from Jeanne Mammen (1890 – 1976, Berlin) and Huguette Caland (b. 1931, Lebanon) form two anchor points between which the younger artists’ works can be settled. Mammen, working in Weimar Berlin among the likes of Otto Dix and George Grosz, embraced Realism associated with the avant-garde; “real” not in verisimilitude of depiction, but real in the reference and in the sensation of reality, reflecting on the climate and zeitgeist of her time. Depicting mostly women, Mammen’s works belie a cunning and intuitive portraitist. Here, a pencil drawing of a Young Woman with Cap and Cigarette in Left Hand from c. 1935-40 is eerily fierce; the subject’s eyes and slight scowl, her defiant gesture of smoking, impress on the viewer an intense curiosity into what this woman’s history must be.

The second locus is Huguette Caland, whose soft modernism is charged by sexuality. Her embrace of body parts as conveyed via an abstract line was sensationally bold – particularly in consideration of her colorful life: fleeing her pedigreed upbringing in Lebanon for a bohemian one as an artist in Paris and later, Los Angeles. Caland’s two drawings in the exhibition are playfully erotic, with colorful lines merging to form figures of two faces kissing, while also suggesting that those lines might perhaps nod to other, more highly sexual, bodily connections.

The younger artists in this exhibition pick up among those two reference points and investigate areas of Modernism—Realism, Abstraction, as well as Surrealism and Conceptualism—that may have been previously overlooked. Julie Curtiss and Louise Bonnet tackle the surreal: Bonnet via irreverent characters with exaggerated features, and Curtiss via iconography of feminine beauty made bizarre. Loie Hollowell and Alice Tippit’s paintings continue in the use of abstraction and line as subtle allusions to human form. Hollowell’s bright shapes and patterns slowly reveal a wink to a naughtier undercurrent, and Tippit’s seemingly simple geometric images likewise function as cheekier optical illusion. Emily Sundblad is extending painting as an act of performance as well as emotional experience. The cast of women in Heidi Hahn and Jackie Gendel’s works are vivid and atmospheric; Hahn’s engage in the complications of psychology and experience in imagined landscapes and interiors, and Gendel’s reference historic fashionable sensibility. Aliza Nisenbaum carries the banner of portraiture ahead, her sharp eye focused on empathy and quietly political content.

Together, the conversation that emerges among these 10 offers viewers an opportunity to contemplate the possibilities of painting.